The US Just Sanctioned Hong Kong’s Leader Carrie Lam Over China’s Crackdown in the City

The US Just Sanctioned Hong Kong’s Leader Carrie Lam Over China’s Crackdown in the City

The Trump administration slapped sanctions on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, and ten other senior Chinese and Hong Kong officials today, making good on promises to punish Beijing for its crackdown on freedoms in the city-state.

The sanctions, made in response to the sweeping national security law that has drastically squeezed political freedoms in the city, will freeze any property and assets the designated officials hold in the United States.

The Treasury Department said the officials were being targeted because they implemented policies “directly aimed at curbing freedom of expression and assembly, and democratic processes, and are subsequently responsible for the degradation of Hong Kong’s autonomy.” 

“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the sanctions.

Alongside Lam, the 63-year-old leader of Hong Kong, the sanctions target Hong Kong’s security chief, John Lee, and its current and former police commissioners, Chris Tang and Stephen Lo. The move also sanctioned Xia Baolong and Luo Huining, senior Chinese Communist Party officials with oversight of Hong Kong.

Lam, who the Treasury said was “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes,” had previously brushed off the threat of sanctions, telling reporters last month she had no assets in the US, “nor do I long for moving to the United States.” 

But the move has been welcomed by Hong Kong activists, who are grateful for international pressure against Beijing and its agents in the city.

“We welcome the US sanctions. They need their human rights abuses held to account,” Simon Cheng Man-kit, chair of the overseas-based Hong Kong activist group The Umbrella Union, told VICE News. 

Cheng, a Hong Konger who was recently granted political asylum in the UK after being tortured by Chinese secret police during a visit to the Mainland last year, said he hoped other Western countries would follow suit in freezing the assets of Chinese and Hong Kong officials.

Despite Lam’s dismissal of the threat, Cheng said sanctions could act as a form of pressure on Chinese officials, as many held assets in the US. He said they couldn’t “have it both ways,” by economically benefiting from participation in the economies of free, democratic countries while cracking down on human rights at home.

Steve Tsang, director of London’s SOAS China Institute, told VICE News that the sanctions wouldn’t change Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s approach on Hong Kong, it could build pressure on officials in Hong Kong.

“I doubt that it will change Xi’s approach on Hong Kong. As a strongman, Xi cannot be seen to be intimidated by a US sanction like this, which does not hurt him or his family anyway,” he said.

But the measures could exert pressure on Hong Kong officials at threat of being sanctioned.

“It is a powerful signal and may have an element of deterrence effect on other [Hong Kong] officials not on the sanction list,” he said.

The move comes amid heightening tensions between Washington and Beijing, and growing repression in Hong Kong.

Earlier today, Trump signed executive orders banning US companies from transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese owner of TikTok, and WeChat, the hugely popular Chinese messaging app, to take effect in 45 days. On Thursday, two dozen pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were charged for taking part in a vigil commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Source : Tim Hume Link

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